May 30, 2007

BusinessWeek, US Airways in ad deal - Magazine will put Welch and wine columns in skies

Consumers who suspect they may never escape the omnipresence of wine god Robert Parker and management gurus Jack and Suzy Welch will soon have one more reason to think so: Starting next month, columns by Parker and the Welches will be laminated onto airplane pull-down tray tables as part of a deal to sell advertising on US Airways planes.

The columns will be reprints of what's already available in the online and traditional print editions of BusinessWeek magazine, long a favorite of browsing business travelers. The tray table columns, changed monthly, will share space on the tray with advertising for as yet-unnamed clients.

The move is an attempt to generate diverse sources of revenue for the airline, whose corporate predecessor went in and out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection several years back. The Phoenix carrier, born in 2005 of a merger of America West and US Airways, is the nation's fifth-largest airline.

America West has experimented with tray-table ads since 2003, but this is the first time it will pair them with editorial content.

The deal, announced Tuesday, was brokered by New York marketing company Brand Connections, whose research showed that passengers remembered the ads better when they were accompanied by editorial content.

US Airways media relations manager Morgan Durrant didn't disclose dollar figures from the deal. "We are in the airline business, not the advertising business,'' Durrant said. "Revenue is peripheral, but is significant enough to keep rising costs (like fuel) in check.''

For advertisers, the tray table ads -- revealed when a passenger pulls down a seatback tray and unfolds it to receive snacks and meals -- offer a chance "to reach business executives during the rare occasion when they are detached from their PDAs, cell phones and offices,'' according to Brand Connections.

For BusinessWeek, the ad-adorned tray tables provide brand promotion. The magazine, a unit of McGraw Hill Cos. Inc., didn't say how much money, if any, changed hands to get its editorial content onto the tray tables. "This unique partnership ... affords BusinessWeek a great opportunity to place our content in front of a captive audience of potential users,'' BusinessWeek Publisher Geoff Dodge said on Tuesday.

Brand Connections' airline advertising arm, Sky Media, plans to introduce the BusinessWeek columns in US Airways' economy class, using different columns for aisle, middle and window seats. In the third quarter of this year, the columns and ads will be laminated onto trays in the first-class cabin of US Airways flights as well.

Once again, the trapped-in-the-seat quality of the target audience is part of the appeal to advertisers. The ads "will reach a captive audience of business executives and affluent fliers for an average of more than 2 1/2 hours,'' according to Brand Connections.

There is no word yet on whether this idea will be adopted by other airlines, too.

By David Armstrong, Chronicle Staff Writer
E-mail David Armstrong at


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